[News from NYC] PostPictures challenge preconceptions

As the first gallery in New York dedicated to new media art in 2001, Bitforms has pioneered many forward-thinking exhibitions over the years. It sees in 2014 with an exhibition that references the past, while looking toward the future: PostPictures reprises the infamous 1977 Pictures show at Artists Space in Soho, updating its focus to feature seven American artists using new media to create contemporary images.

More than a decade after the first machinima films drew attention, the novelty has worn off and the technique of subverting commercial movie and video game engines has matured. What’s left is a new relationship to CGI that references traditional pictorial models while reappropriating the genre.

If Hollywood used digital special effects to glorify Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, Claudia Hart adapted a 3D game engine to create the video installation Dark kNight, in which a smoothly rendered female avatar appears suspended in space, imprisoned by the screen’s wooden-framed black box, swinging her feet toward the viewer in an attempt to kick down the fourth wall. Blockbuster misogyny keeps her captive, for now.

And while the 3D animation software Maya has been used to animate lifelike tigers and bears in live-action movies, Katie Torn uses it to create slow-moving, surreal worlds of bioforms and debris. Her Snow White still life seems to capture a frozen moment of dripping blue liquid on a razor-sharp inkjet print, posing in the cubist, futurist form of a woman’s portrait, or a deliberately lit floral bouquet. Looks are deceiving, as slick CGI is harnessed to paint a classic composition.

Snow White, 2013. Photo by John Berens. Image courtesy bitforms gallery NYC.

Subverting the violently aggressive interface of first-person shooter games, Shane Mecklenburger’s Fortress of Solitude Tilted is an interactive sculpture that invites the player to shoot a stream of treasured blood diamonds, while sitting at a vanity table adorned with kryptonite.

Fortress of Solitude Tilted, 2013. Photo by John Berens. Image courtesy bitforms gallery NYC.

Jonathan Monaghan’s Mothership, an animated 3D collage of pictures, logos and mapped architectures lifted off the Internet, humorously reflects our saturated exposure to mainstream pop references, taking us on a playfully morphing journey from corporate power to cultural artifacts to the iconic Holstein cow.

As Google and its aspiration of world domination is always a popular target among media critics and artists alike, Clement Valla focuses his Internet scavenging on Google Earth, collecting images of “edge conditions”, where the aerial photograph and the texture map of the 3D model no longer align. The result is a visually warped seam that disrupts the photographic representation, confusing our perception of geography and location. Yet Google’s version of the planet is always evolving according to newer photographs and a patented algorithm that favors clear, flat, daytime shots that can be stitched together into its own customized representation. Valla calls his series of 3D Google Earth postcard installations The Universal Texture.

Front: The Universal Texture (33°31’18.23”N, 86°39’57.58”W), 2013
Back: The Universal Texture (39°7’30.40”N, 84°29’54.63”W), 2013

Photo by John Berens. Image courtesy bitforms gallery NYC.

Rollin Leonard digitally distorts photographs in his own way, integrating the human body directly into the algorithmic equation. In his Crash Kiss series, he pushes pixels until they abutt in a neo-romantic collision of disembodied profiles. Belly Wallpaper abstracts his own male torso into an infinitely sprawling, organic pattern of commodified flesh.

Front: Crash Kiss: Guthrie & Ellis, 2013 ; back: Belly Wallpaper: Rollin, 2013
Photo by John Berens. Image courtesy bitforms gallery NYC.

Sara Ludy’s “space portraits” deconstruct images of modern architecture into animated abstract photographs of light, angles and geometric forms, digitally expanding and dissolving into each other to an eerie soundtrack. While Niodrara and Transom feature real buildings in California and Virginia, Otha presents an otherworldly haunting exploration of a virtual prefabricated house in Second Life.

Of course, each one of these emerging artists has developed a full body of work that gives further context and coherence to the individual concepts presented in this group show. But although the common gallery space results in competing soundtracks, their collection highlights an ongoing trend of contemporary images that have been calculated and rendered into new realms of visual landscapes, as unlimited visual fantasies brought to life and merged with real-world representations. Are these artists indeed the PostPictures Generation?

Speaking of pictures, recent Tribeca resident Postmasters gallery concurrently curated its last media-art-specific exhibition, including works by Katie Torn and Rollin Leonard, which closes on January 18, with this note:

“The alternative title for casting the wide net could be the last picture show, as this indeed will be our final group exhibition focusing on net and digital-related art. (…) It can be argued that today all artists engage technology in one way or another. It is time to integrate and leave behind the labels of media artist, new media artist, digital artist, internet artist, post-internet artist, and such. Just ARTIST will do.”


Cherise Fong

bitforms gallery
Through January 25, 2014

Picture on top: Claudia Hart, Dark kNight, 2012. Image courtesy bitforms gallery NYC.

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